The project's aim is to rehabilitate 400+ acres of active cacao farms using integrated agro-forestry systems; to educate farmers in management techniques that will reduce the incidence of Monilia disease, which is devastating to cacao trees; and finally to improve cacao yields through such techniques of regular pruning. A total of 300 farmers in 25 mayan communities will benefit directly from the implementation of the project.
The challenge that this project aims to address is the low productivity of cacao trees farmed by the Maya smallholder farmers in the Toledo and Stann Creek districts in Belize. Low productivity is caused by: poor quality (age and varietal) of trees, incidence of pest (i.e. Monilia disease); and weak farm maintenance (i.e. regular tree pruning, which is essential for cacao yield improvement). Low productivity means that farmers' livelihoods from cacao farming are not optimized.
The project is to double cacao farmer's average yields within two years of the project implementation; from 175 lbs of dry cacao per acre currently to 350 lbs per acre. It will be carried out by forming five clusters, identifying Lead Farmers in each cluster, who will conduct at least five farmer-to-farmer trainings during the year, and constructing five community tool banks which will offer all necessary tools and supplies needed for farmers to conduct the rehabilitation and pruning activities.
The rationale for this project is that only by increasing productivity and cacao yields can the Maya farmers with which NLCI works, 75% of whom rely on cacao as their primary cash crop, increase their absolute income to levels that will enable investments in schooling, farm equipment, and increase the value of land under agro-forestry cacao production so as to dis-incentivize deforestation activity in the region.